In front of a boisterous crowd on Saturday night in Harrison, New Jersey, Lionel Messi came in as a substitute in the 60th minute and scored his first MLS goal spectacularly in the 89th to secure Inter Miami’s 2-0 victory over the visiting New York Red Bulls.
Messi sent the ball to Benjamin Cremaschi after New York’s five-man wall stopped Messi’s free kick a little while earlier. The 36-year-old superstar was then way out of position for New York goalkeeper Carlos Coronel to stop him as he advanced to the middle of the goal, waited for Cremaschi’s follow-up pass, and scored into an open net.
Since moving to Miami (6-14-3, 21 points) on July 15, Messi has scored 11 goals in all competitions, giving the team its first victory since May 13. Miami had lost their previous 11 MLS games, going 0-8-3, when Messi secured the victory.
Fans started yelling for Messi even though he didn’t warm up in the first few minutes and again in the 35th, just before Diego Gomez scored his first MLS goal in his league debut despite joining Miami five days after Messi and without warming up.
Noah Allen took control of the ball in the 37th minute and passed it to a galloping Gomez, who sent a left-footed drive from the center of the box into the bottom right corner past Coronel’s right hand after New York failed to properly clear after a Miami set piece.
Leonardo Campana, who had just missed the goal just before Messi’s dramatic debut, was replaced by Messi in the 60th minute.
Drake Callender, the goalie for Miami, had his fourth shutout of the year and seventh overall after making four saves. In the 57th minute, he dived to block Tom Barlow’s shot, and in the 50th minute, he sprang to stop Omir Fernandez’s header.
The Red Bulls (7-10-8, 29 points) were unable to score a late goal as they did on Sunday to defeat D.C. United, and Coronel only managed one stop in the game. This was their third loss in as many games.